Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Author: Jon Raymond
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2012
Read for: Review
Damon and his long-time girlfriend Amy are headed to Rain Dragon, a self-sufficient farming commune that promises something different from the rat-race Los Angeles life they have been living. Upon arrival, they learn that each member needs to find a niche in the commune, a task that isn't always easy. However, as they both settle into their new lives, they undergo some unexpected changes.
I was very interested in the premise of this book. I'm all for seeking inner peace through nature and eating local food. However, ultimately Rain Dragon was a bit disappointing for me.
I think the first flaw of Rain Dragon is a quality that, if wielded correctly, could have been an asset. Jon Raymond is clearly an excellent writer. He produces vivid images and descriptions. However, his constant description bogged down the story. There were just too many details that were not relevant and caused me to lose interest. I think had some of the superfluous descriptions been weeded out, Rain Dragon would have been a tighter and more compelling read.
Rain Dragon also lacked direction in the plot. The story was somewhat episodic, beginning with Amy and Damon's struggle to find a niche on the farm, continuing on to a focus on their relationship troubles, then veering off into the farm's motivational workshop program and the troubles they encounter there. The common thread throughout the book is Damon's rocky relationship with Amy, which remains consistent through the beginning and the end, but there are moments in the book when that relationship gets lost under the other events happening. I suppose the other events that take the stage do vaguely affect Damon and Amy's relationship, but in general they seemed like utterly different components of the plot. While all the pieces were interesting in their own right, they didn't always feel cohesive to me.
One aspect of the book that I did truly enjoy was the ending. Without giving it away, I will say that it left me with questions and caused me to think. Once I reached the ending, I think I realized that the story was meant to be more about Damon and Amy's relationship than anything else (at any rate, that was what the beginning and the ending focused upon), although that thread became lost for a while in the body of the story. In the last pages, I identified some themes that were interesting to me -- sacrifice, patience, soul-searching, independence -- and while I'm not sure that those were the themes the author intended, having to identify them on my own made reading Rain Dragon a richer experience. However, I don't think the vagueness and lack of direction in the plot contributed to the fact that I had a rewarding experience picking out the themes. Rain Dragon could still have left the ending open to interpretation with a less tenuous plot.
Overall, while presenting some interesting ideas and the seeds of some quality writing, Rain Dragon was not the book for me. However, I am slightly curious about other works of Raymond's.
Warnings: Profanity (some f-bombs), brief sensuality